Williams, Bulls prepare for rematch with Memphis


The Bulls take on a familiar foe tonight, squaring off against a struggling Memphis team for the 16th meeting in school history between the two teams. 

The Tigers lead the overall series 12-4, but the Bulls have won the past two meetings, including a 71-58 win earlier this month.

USF (15-10, 10-5) comes into the game winning four of its last five by an average of 17.5 points with the only loss coming from No. 1 UConn.

The Bulls have gotten a major spark from sophomore guard Courtney Williams who shattered a career-high and scored 35 points Saturday against Temple. Williams acknowledged she is playing at a high level, averaging 26 points and 8.5 rebounds over the past two games, but said her teammates are the reason for her success.

“I definitely feel it’s a team effort,” Williams said. “I wouldn’t be where I’m at without my teammates. Alisia (Jenkins) crashes the boards hard, Inga (Orekhova) is a threat from three-point and that leaves room for me to do what I’m capable of doing.”

But she doesn’t let her recent success take away from her preparation. Williams said she is starting to work on finishing plays with her left hand. 

When game planning for Williams, Fernandez said opposing teams, such as Memphis, try to force her to the left or keep defenders off the three-point line to avoid giving her the comfortable shot.

Memphis (11-15, 4-10) enters the game on a six-game losing streak and will have their hands full with the size and quickness USF possesses.

Unlike other teams who feature stars at the guard position, USF boasts a dynamic forward/center tandem in 6-foot-4 senior center Akila McDonald and a 6-foot-1 forward in Jenkins. 

As a sophomore, Jenkins played a big role with her ability to go up and snag rebounds, averaging a conference-best 9.8 per game.

“Alisia doesn’t play like a regular forward,” Williams said. “She’s super-fast, quick and she can jump high. Our forwards are always key.”

Though the Bulls were able to out-rebound the Tigers 48-40 in their first meeting, they failed to keep Memphis guard Pa’Sonna Hope off the boards, giving up 16 rebounds. USF looks to use size to limit Memphis in the paint.

One of the biggest assets to the Bulls is Orekhova’s ability to consistently knock down perimeter shots. The senior shot 40 percent, hitting four threes, in the Bulls’ previous matchup against Memphis. 

After surpassing the 900-point mark in Saturday’s win, Orekhova said she’s “still trying to get that 1,000 mark.”

Orekhova and the Bulls face three conference games remaining on the schedule, entering with a  10-5 record in the AAC.

“We need to practice hard, listen to coach and finish strong because we need these last three games,” Orekhova said.

The Bulls tip off against Memphis at 7 p.m. in the Sun Dome.